Surrounded by Fourteeners at Kite Lake
Since the Kite Lake Trailhead campground was snowed in on the last weekend in June, I set up camp between the road and a roaring creek, at an established campsite with a fire ring. Here's my Kelty tent with Mount Democrat, the Fourteener I climbed, in the background. To the right is the approach to Mts. Cameron and Lincoln.
I took off from work about 1:30 pm and sped west to Fairplay (also known these days as South Park). Just stopped long enuff to buy a 6" sub at Subway. Drove NW on Colorado State 9 to Alma, a cute little mountain town. Turned west and followed a bumpy road 6 miles to the trailhead. BUT, the road was covered with snow 3 miles from the TH, and impassable. I found a campsite between the road and a roaring creek. Set up my tent, gathered firewood, and retired around 8 pm. Although the sun went behind a mountain around 5 pm, it was light until 9 pm, so I was able to relax in my sleeping bag and read Alexander McCall Smith's latest novel for an hour. Sleep eluded me though. I heard what I thought were high winds until the wee hours. Finally, the mountain ceased to boil with demonic energy, and I slept peacefully until the birds started to sing at 5 am.
At around the same time, cars began barrelling up the road toward the trailhead. By the time I had struck camp, eaten breakfast and walked to the trailhead, there was a line of at least 20 cars parked just before the snowbank that closed the road. Most people must have gone to Mt. Lincoln, as I encountered only about a dozen people and two dogs on my trek to the top of Mt. Democrat.
I was grateful for the snow, which cushioned my steps, kept me cool, and showed where the trail was with its foot tracks. The sky was a cloudless deep blue and the way was peppered with interesting sights: tiny blue wildflowers, chickadees, strange iridescent green scarab beetles, mottled bronze, green, black, and orange rocks. For traversing the snowfields I wore my new YakTrax for the first time, and really liked the additional grip they gave me. Those and my walking pole kept me happy even on the slickest snowfield or bumpiest rockfield.
About noon, I arrived at the first milestone, the saddle between Mts. Democrat and Cameron/Lincoln. It was breathtaking to look out and see 20 or so of Colorado's most magestic Fourteeners, including the Continental Divide, the Front and Tenmile Ranges, the Sawatches, including the Presidential Range and, far to the west, the Elk Range. I could have turned right to climb up to Mt. Lincoln, but I summited it last year, so this time, I turned left and headed up to Mt. Democrat.
Its summit loomed over a rockfield and a couple of really steep snowfields. I had to zigzag back and forth across the snowfields, but made it with no missteps. Along the sides of the snowfields were soft patches where I postholed and had to pull my leg out of the knee-deep snow. I could have avoided this by starting earlier when the snow was crustier. Finally I came out on top only to find out that Mt. Democrat has a false summit. The real summit is a fourth-mile on and several hundred feet up. Well, I wasn't going to stop just short of the summit, so I pressed on! As I came up to the top, two ravens greeted me. They were hovering motionless, riding on the updrafts, looking at me with their beady eyes. They swooped away as soon as they determined that I was not going to feed them, leaving me alone and victorious on the top of the world, or so it seemed!